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Climate change the cue deciding Queensland’s best and brightest Indigenous artists

BY Cairns Indigenous Art Fair | 24-Aug-2020
Queensland’s best and brightest Indigenous artists and organisations have been recognised at this year’s Cairns Indigenous Art Fair’s Art Awards. Hosted by First Nations actor, director, singer, songwriter, comedian and writer, Elaine Crombie, CIAF 2020 Art Award recipients were chosen by an esteemed judging panel comprising Australia’s leading Indigenous curators and artists, Bruce Johnson-McLean, Carly Lane and Judy Watson (refer to panellist bios at bottom of media release).
Clinton Naina, winner of the prestigious Premier's Award for Excellence for his work, Stolen Climate
Impressed by the quality and diversity of the art augmented through online and digital platforms in this year’s Climate Change themed Art Fair exhibition, the judges said they were delighted and honoured to engage with such a strong body of work.

In a collective appraisal of this year’s awards, the judging panel said the incredible talent of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists (our mob) never ceases to amaze.

“Although it upsets us not to be in Cairns to experience the immersive celebration of art and culture that CIAF delivers so well, we are grateful for the support from Janina (Harding) and her team who have pushed the fair online, to allow us to still connect and stay connected with the fair while at home.

“One of CIAF’s great lures is that every year there is something new and different to excite audiences – it is never predictable – and this year is no different.

“The sensitivity, respect and passion for creative expression, sharing culture and for our individual and collective stories is a testament to our love and commitment to family, Country and culture.

“In this year – one which has brought many of us great pain and uncertainty – it is important to regroup and reconnect with culture, stand tall and maintain. Always was, always will be……”

All 50 plus artists whose work, 421 pieces in total, featured in the curated Art Fair were eligible for judging with criteria based on creativity and response to this year’s theme.

Presenting at last night’s official online awards announcement, Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk said her government was proud to continue to support CIAF and to sponsor the event’s largest prize, the $15,000 Premier’s Award for Excellence.

“I’m delighted to announce the winner of the CIAF 2020 Premier’s Award for Excellence this year goes to Clinton Naina, for his 4-panel installation titled ‘Stolen Climate’,” the Premier said.

“The judges said it was a haunting exploration of the personal experience of the shared suffering Indigenous people experience in times of crisis.

“I want to congratulate Clinton and also thank the winners, judges and organisers for continuing to deliver CIAF to the world.”

According to the judging panel, the visceral grief and pain that sits heavily in both the artist and the collective unconscious is beautifully expressed.

“This installation is very strong and would work well in its own space, allowing the viewer to meditate on the imagery and the deeply felt emotions imparted by the artist,” they said.

Winner of the Cairns Regional Council Art Centre Award ($10,000) is Erub Arts for their subtle but strong approach to this year’s theme of climate change, making their multi-layered ghost net installation comprising many sculptural elements, a ‘stand out’.

CIAF’s 2020 winner of the Holding Redlich Innovation Award ($10,000), is Paula Savage for her ‘Coral Bleaching’ works on paper triptych that repurposes traditional weaving practices to create a woven, two-dimensional form which according to the judges, immediately captured their attention and was considered, ‘pure genius’.

This year’s Ports North 3D Design, Sculpture and Installation Award ($5000) was won by Toby Cedar for his five-piece installation, ‘Beizam Tirig’ (Shark Teeth) highlighting the significance of culture and spirituality’ a oneness with the different forces of nature.

Meredith Arkwookerum from Pormpuraaw Arts and Cultural Centre was awarded the BDO Emerging Art Award ($5000) for her three ‘Lorikeet and Parrot’ acrylic on linen works.

The judges remarked that Arkwookerum’s vibrant paintings are full of life and display a genuine love for Country and all that encompasses.

Online visitors to CIAF 2020 between the opening ceremony on Friday 14 August and yesterday’s closing ceremony, 23 August 2020 determined (by online vote), Agnes Wotton of Palm Island for her work, Sea Anemone, the final category winner in the Fibre Optics NQ Peoples Choice ($5000 prize).